Our local “Dissenter from Darwinism,” Fred Skiff, gave a talk last Friday. Prior to the talk, I predicted:

One, that Skiff will provide a strawman version of evolutionary theory (heck, and science itself) as he did last time I saw him speak… Two, that Skiff will assert or imply that evolution implies atheism, and that if one accepts methodological naturalism, one therefore must also accept philosophical naturalism, and choose between evolutionary theory and their religious beliefs. Three, that he will assert that “intelligent design” is the sensible alternative to “orthodox” science, but its study is being repressed by “Darwinists” or something of that nature.

All I gotta say is: damn, I’m good. In a bit of what I assume was unintended irony, Skiff was introduced with a comment noting that discussions about intelligent design frequently generated “heat” but not a lot of “light,” after which Skiff spent much of his time railing against “Darwinists” and “Darwinism,” creating a strawman presentation of evolutionary biology, misinforming about the Richard Sternberg case, claiming that supporters of evolution were out to make it “illegal to question Darwinism” and that the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has said to “destroy intelligent design by ruining reputations.” Is it any wonder Skiff receives a lot of heat after inflammatory rhetoric such as that? A summary of the rest of the talk is after the jump.

Skiff talked to an audience of maybe 40 people last Friday at Geneva Campus Ministry’s “First Fridays,” a monthly event. Presenting a typical creationist background (“I was raised to be a ‘Darwinist’”), Skiff began by documenting his early educational history, where he claimed he was “trained to see religion as an obstacle to knowledge” and then became a Christian after reading the Bible in college. He started investigating the claims of “Darwinism” (he rarely used the term “evolution”) in the 1970s, after he said that mathematicians had found Darwinism to be “mathematically absurd.”

Skiff then said one of the only things where I agreed with him: that before forming an opinion on something, parties should at least read what is being said. This is why my bookshelves are littered with ID material (gaining quizzical looks from those who know me): because I want to read what they’re actually saying, from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. However, it becomes clear that Skiff doesn’t read the biology literature to know what he’s critiquing, or if he does, he makes such a mess of it as to render those readings useless when he conveys them to the audience. Typical of creationists, he kept using phrases like “random” and “chance” to refer to evolutionary biology (or, well, to “Darwinism,” whatever he’s using that to mean). Of course, while random/chance mutations may be a source of variation upon which natural selection asks, anyone who’s spent a few minutes studying the theory knows that evolution itself is far from “random chance.”

Also typical, Skiff claimed that there is no conflict between religion and science (which I’d generally agree with)–but went on to say that the conflict, instead, is between two different religions: “materialism” versus the others. From here he went on the typical rant against methodological naturalism and the nature of science, the limits of science, and added for good measure a heaping spoonful of confusion over methodological and metaphysical naturalism. For example, according to Skiff, materialism equals “the belief that the universe is just atoms and empty space,” and therefore that science has no limits, and studies everything that is “real.” Of course, some scientists may believe this, but many do not–they simply see that limiting the study of science to the material world is all that is possible for the time being, and even though they may believe in a deity of some kind, the supernatural is beyond the study of science. He also suggested that, to the materialist, if something is not a scientific question, it’s “meaningless,” and that the solution to this type of nihilism is a paradigm like Intelligent Design, which “challenges the religion of ‘scientism.’”

Skiff then (rather poorly, in my opinion) launched into an explanation of irreducible complexity and Dembski’s filter, using for the former the example of words (which he claimed were irreducible) and examples of insurance fraud and SETI for the latter, but stating that detecting design is “an admittedly tricky thing.” However, Skiff has an undergraduate degree in engineering, and claimed that he could “recognize engineering when [he saw] it.” Language was the example he kept coming back to; for example, claiming that DNA is really just a “high level language,” which speaks of someone (with magnitudes greater intelligence than humans) who wrote it. However, he did contain a very generous note–despite his assertion that biology is essentially just teleology and “absurd,” he did concede that biology still belongs in science.

During the question and answer session, Skiff was asked a question I’ve never seen an ID advocate answer well (see Guillermo Gonzalvez’s answer here): what about using intelligent design to make predictions? Skiff didn’t disappoint; he rambled for awhile about ID being a way of making inferences, and being an interface with the bigger world. He claimed that ID broadened the scope of possible explanations, into a “meaningful system” and not just a “materialistic” one.

So, it was pretty much as I expected. However, I’m not quite as disheartened as I thought I would be, because I think a lot of what he said went over peoples’ heads. He jumped into some complicated science and philosophy without any kind of introduction, so there were a lot of soundbites, but not a whole lot of meat. I’m not sure that, if someone had come in with no understanding of intelligent design, they’d have any idea what it was after leaving the talk. Of course, the downside of this is that there *were* a lot of soundbites, including the whole “religion of materialism” and “make challenging Darwinism illegal” bits. Of course, those aren’t exactly unique to Skiff either, and can be found all over the internet and elsewhere.

Comments

  1. #1 Stephen
    March 8, 2007

    Why, I wonder, if we (people who support TOE) know when and where these idiots are going to speak, can’t we have someone in the audience, not to interfere but, rather to have them call them on their misinformation during the Q&A?

    These fountains of misinformation have to be confronted at every step.

  2. #2 blf
    March 8, 2007

    Minor correction to an informative post (many thanks!):

    Skiff was introduced with a comment nothing that discussions…

    should probably be noting

  3. #3 Michael
    March 8, 2007

    The problem with trying to address a fountain of misinformation is that they tend to get EVERYTHING wet by spewing in all directions. It’s hard to know where to begin mopping.

    My few attempts to confront them on Yahoo! were exercises in frustration because they answer nothing and spin off in another direction rather than get exposed for how little they know on any particular subject. Sometimes it seems that the most effective way to deal with them is to somply point and laugh!

  4. #4 Bob King
    March 8, 2007

    Tara,

    Excellent post but I wonder why you say that there is no conflict between science and religion. In principle this might be true in the abstract; e.g, if one posits a totally spiritual theater which never comes into contact with the material world nor does it affect it. But I know of no religions which posit this. The history is that whenever there has been a conflict between a religious idea and a scientific one then science has won out and the religious belief has either been discarded or – as we so often see these days – the science is flatly denied by the true believers until they die off and the scientific idea becomes generally accepted. That is, until the previous religious idea has essentially been forgotten and religious history can safely be re-written.

    My sense is that religious beliefs that do not currently conflict with science only do not do so because (i) they are untestable; (ii) they have not yet been tested or (iii) they deal with issues of human nature for which there is no “one scientific answer.” But is viewing theft or murder as wrong an intrinsically religious idea? And should such ideas be equated with science? Aren’t they different beasts – that is, where science and religion share common ground they conflict and where they don’t they needn’t be compared? For example, is it unscientific regularly to do my laundry on a Monday?

    Another example: if life were found on other planets then this would certainly – and easily – be incorporated into some religions but, in fact, it would conflict with much of the basis of many variants of Christianity in which the Earth is a sort of universal testing ground between good and bad and that Jesus’s sacrifice was only needed once in the universe. So finding life elswehere would fundamentally alter certain religious beliefs and interpretations but, for religions in which this is a real problem, the change would be done “adiabatically” – i.e, so slowly and imperceptibly that people didn’t realize that things had changed. It’s very Orwellian. For other religions life elsewhere would be explained simply as further evidence of God’s handiwork. So, sooner or later, the new discovery would be absorbed into almost all religions. But they would then be different religions. Sure, science also changes but it differs from religion in that the body of knowledge and ideas at any given time is not assumed to be divine writ.

    Also, the fact that different religions (by definition) mutually contradict each other implies a self-consistency problem which must, therefore, imply that a maximum of all but one of them conflicts with science as well. Given that it is obvious that no one religion has the sole truth then the logical conclusion is that all conflict with science.

    It is a warm and fuzzy thing to see no conflict between science and religion but unless the notion of religion is something so vague as to be meaningless then there is a basic conflict. An analogy in a nutshell: a scientist can still give in to irrational hopes and expectations – which is human nature – but that does not mean that those irrational feelings don’t conflict with reality. Same thing for religion – and in this very human way they don’t conflict because people capable of holding irrational beliefs can still do good science. But few religionists woud be happy with that conclusion stated so bluntly.

    If religious certainty, time and again, has had to yield to the scientific method then religion is no more than a psychological crutch. While such a crutch need not conflict with science – and for many it may be even necessary – let’s not equate religion and science by asserting that they don’t conflict. They conflict no more than does the need for a child to have a security blanket conflict with science.

  5. #5 J-Dog
    March 8, 2007

    Michael – It’s called the Gish Gallop after an old-timey creo famous for his rapid cahge of direction and topics.
    kent “Dr Dino Hovind, before he wound up in jail, was also famous for the Gish Gallop.

    The only way to rein them in is to keep to the question you asked, or insist that they keep to the topic, and answer a question properlym without dodging, before they move on to the next.

    Tara – Welcome back – It’s good to see you back making sense out of Skiff’s nonsense.

  6. #6 Bob King
    March 8, 2007

    I meant ” a minimum of all but one”

  7. #7 Michael
    March 8, 2007

    Bob,

    Science and religion don’t conflict if the religious person has the mindset that science reveals God’s designs. However, science and dogma will conflict like crazy everytime…and dogma will always lose. But I wouldn’t listen to me about religion if I were you…I’m an Atheist.

  8. #8 Dave S.
    March 8, 2007

    Thanks for the review Tara.

    Sounds like a typical dilettant. Not only does he not understand biology very well, he also doesn’t understand ID very well, so he botches both. I for one would have asked how he included non-material mechanisms in his own published papers. If not…why not.

    Sadly, the people who would actually check to see if he has a clue what he’s talking about aren’t likey to be his audience anyway.

  9. #9 Eric
    March 8, 2007

    Echoing what Michael just wrote…

    There is no conflict in religion and science if one simply looks at the world, and the natural processes within it, as the subtle and miraculous hand of god.

    Quite frankly, I find a god who can create such an elaborate, complex and elegant system far more appealing than one who smites cities for failing a test.

  10. #10 Jim51
    March 8, 2007

    J-Dog is correct when he says…

    *The only way to rein them in is to keep to the question you asked, or insist that they keep to the topic, and answer a question properly without dodging, before they move on to the next.*

    Sadly, this can only be done in a courtroom where a judge can order them to stop dodging and answer the question. We saw a good example of this recently in Dover, PA. Some of the ID creationists decided not to show up and the ones that did got pretty well fried.

  11. #11 Tukla in Iowa
    March 8, 2007

    He thinks words are irreducible? Skiff knows as little about linguistic evolution as he does about biological evolution.

  12. #12 Matt
    March 8, 2007

    I have to wonder if any of the creationist/ID folks have even bothered to read the old testament.

  13. #13 Bob King
    March 8, 2007

    Michael and Eric,

    That’s all well and good but that is a definition of religion that few people who claim to be religious actually subscribe to. That is, you both seem to be arguing that the way to reconcile relgion and science is to define religion simply to be the general belief in a God who doesn’t (any longer) actively interfere with the universe although he possibly created it.

    For most people that would amount to redefining what they mean by religion to the point of it being almost meaningless. People who define themselves as being religious fall more into the God-as-smiter-of-cities motif.

    So, I don’t think it helps our side to claim no conflict between religion and science when the definition of religion we are using is a very odd one for most people who claim to be religious. Further, this is not the definition that people like Polkinghorne use – they really do subscribe to the central tenets of their religion – in his case Christianity.

    In general I thinkk there is a certain failure on the pro-evolution side to admit that belief in evolution really is incompatible with what the vast majority of religious people “of the book” (Christians, Muslims and Jews) actually believe.

  14. #14 Matt
    March 8, 2007

    Bob,

    I think your are absolutely spot on in your last paragraph.

    “I thinkk there is a certain failure on the pro-evolution side to admit that belief in evolution really is incompatible with what the vast majority of religious people “of the book” (Christians, Muslims and Jews) actually believe.

    The problem is that our society holds religion on such a pedestal that we simply aren’t allowed to question it. We can argue lots of things, but one’s religious views simply aren’t debatable. Since we aren’t allowed to question religion, we do the best we can to make it compatible. Unfortunately the ID folks aren’t likely to return the favor.

  15. #15 KiwiInOz
    March 8, 2007

    Tara, thanks for taking one for the team and attending this abomination.

    Incidentally, but quite appropriately, the word Tara in Maori means sparkling.

  16. #16 Steverino
    March 8, 2007

    No, I understand your points and I aware of the Gish Gallop. I think I’m just wishful thinking here.

    Does these people not participate in written debates? Or, do they avoid them because when pen meets paper the truth comes out?

  17. #17 QrazyQat
    March 8, 2007

    They do avoid written debates. There are several great disadvantages of a written debate from the ID/creationist point of view:

    1) the Gish gallop doesn’t work, because your opponent has the time to cover each and every wrong thing you say.

    2) people can go back and read what you did say, so you can’t deny it, at least not effectively.

    3) your opponent can look up the stuff they don’t know when covering whatever you’ve claimed (since all of pseudoscience and fringe science depends on amassing large amounts of impressive sounding stuff that’s actually BS, few people can know enough to correct it all, even if they have the time. So with #1 and #3 here that great advantage is gone in a written debate.

    4) your opponent can spend a little time explaining things, so that all that impressive sounding stuff that goes over the heads of the audience but is assumed to be good evidence and argument can be shown to be BS.

    Another way in which formal written debates are a problem for ID/creationists, from what I’ve seen when these debates are done at Internet Infidels, is that one has the time find out when they’re just cutting and pasting from BS sources.

  18. #18 Ginger Yellow
    March 8, 2007

    Next time someone uses language as a pro-ID argument, ask them who designed English. You might want to follow up with the point that every single one of the thousands of vastly complex languages spoken regularly on earth is the result of an unguided process of descent with modification, as attested to by historical linguistics.

  19. #19 Chris Noble
    March 8, 2007

    Next time someone uses language as a pro-ID argument, ask them who designed English. You might want to follow up with the point that every single one of the thousands of vastly complex languages spoken regularly on earth is the result of an unguided process of descent with modification, as attested to by historical linguistics.

    Nahh, God created all the different languages to confuse those upstart humans who decided to built a big tower.

  20. #20 Andrew Wade
    March 8, 2007

    For example, according to Skiff, materialism equals “the belief that the universe is just atoms and empty space,” and therefore that science has no limits, and studies everything that is “real.” Of course, some scientists may believe this, but many do not–

    I would be one of the “not”, and I am an atheist.

    … they simply see that limiting the study of science to the material world is all that is possible for the time being, …

    Yup, that’s me, for a very loose definition of “material world”.

    … and even though they may believe in a deity of some kind, …

    Not me.

    the supernatural is beyond the study of science.

    That rather depends on the exact nature of the supernatural phenomenon under consideration. Certainly magic, Harry Potter style, if it existed would be quite amenable to scientific inquiry.
    Likewise, while the mechanisms behind faith healing might remain obscure, were there anything to the phenomenon scientific methodology could be employed to help characterize it.

    He also suggested that, to the materialist, if something is not a scientific question, it’s “meaningless,” …

    Sure, I would expect most materialists to be logical positivists.

    and that the solution to this type of nihilism is a paradigm like Intelligent Design, which “challenges the religion of ‘scientism.’”

    Meh. Challenging materialism or logical positivism or whatever the heck “sciencism” is isn’t the be all and end all of a philosophy/religion for me. I’m rather fond of empiricism, and logical consistency is good too, so I.D. is a bit of a non-starter. I also think that helping one’s fellow sentient beings is important; but that’s got bugger-all to do with evolutionary biology one way or the other. And in my experience how morally one behaves has surprisingly little to do with the metaphysics one purports to believe, so I don’t get too excited about the “nihilism” of materialism.

  21. #21 Chris Hyland
    March 9, 2007

    “and that the solution to this type of nihilism is a paradigm like Intelligent Design, which “challenges the religion of ‘scientism.’”

    Thats funny considering the large number of scientists who aren’t particularly scientistic.

    “I think there is a certain failure on the pro-evolution side to admit that belief in evolution really is incompatible with what the vast majority of religious people “of the book” (Christians, Muslims and Jews) actually believe.”

    That would be easier to believe if it wasn’t for the fact that millions of Christians, Jews and Muslims are fine with evolution.

  22. #22 Owen Mackwood
    March 9, 2007

    As a science-minded individual, it offends my sensibilities enough to see these people misappropriate the terminology of biology to their own nefarious ends. But as a computer engineer, I just have to put my foot down when someone uses terminology like “high level language” completely incorrectly. Assuming Tara Smith has quoted him accurately Mr. Skiff clearly has no notion what a high-level language is (and this from someone educated as an engineer… shame on you Mr. Skiff!) In fact, DNA is about as far from a high-level language as you can get. It isn’t even assembly: it’s the equivalent of machine code. Here’s what a truly high-level language for describing a person would look like:

    class Human : public Mammal
    {
    Arm mLeft, mRight;
    Leg mLeft, mRight;
    Head mNoggin;

    public Human(const Human& mother, const Human& father) : Mammal(mother,father)
    {
    };

    /* A few billion lines of code clipped for brevity */

    }

    Unfortunately, our supposed designer/programmer wasn’t kind enough to leave the manual for our ISA (machine code). Otherwise all this decompiling we’re doing would be considerably easier. Apparently he’s seated at his divine computer (what operating system does he run, anyway?) banging out lines of C# and we’re down here sifting through about 3 billion bases of quaternary data? Damn you, oh heavenly programmer! Yet more proof that if god does exist, he’s a real bastard.

    And as an aside, I’d like to apologize on behalf of all engineers. I think this is at least the second time I’ve seen a person educated as an engineer come out on behalf of ID to say something like “I’m an engineer and I know design when I see it!” Shut up you idiots, you’re embarrassing all of us.

  23. #23 Julie Stahlhut
    March 9, 2007

    Do any of these “irreducible complexity” boosters have any idea that DNA is an actual molecule that has actual chemical and physical properties, and interacts with other actual molecules in pathways that are also influenced by environmental conditions?

    Or, is that too much complexity for them?

  24. #24 Frank Barrett
    March 9, 2007

    I attended that meeting determined to speak if Fred Skiff’s talk was confusing people into thinking ID was science. But most of the questions asked near the end of the talk were definitely ID unfriendly, so I relaxed. I agree that Skiff was to blame for his poor presentation. He gave an example of design inference that was not to be believed. If he sat at a breakfast table drinking a cup of coffee and heard a voice talking about his morning schedule, Skiff would use design inference to conclude that the voice didn’t come from the coffee. When a question came up later about ID’s testability, Skiff used the example of that cup of coffee, saying that searching for the source of that voice elsewhere was testing ID. I now have very serious reservations about Fred Skiff’s qualifications for teaching at the U of Iowa. We Iowans have standards, you know.

  25. #25 Stephen
    March 9, 2007

    We had an ID speaker a couple months back at our astronomy club. There wasn’t time for questions during the talk. I expected to do a rebuttal talk, and so took notes. The trouble is that it’s very hard to refute point by point, because the explanations take much longer than the misinformation (lies). The original talk was entitled “Intelligent Design – Is It Science?”

    I’ll only have an hour. My working title is “Intelligent Design – What is it?”. My current outline spends 40 minutes on why it isn’t science (which won’t cover it), 10 minutes on why it isn’t religion, and the last 10 minutes painting it as a PR campaign. This last bit needs the most work. In particular, the motives and goals could use some help. Any ideas, post a comment on my blog (link above) to any topic.

  26. #26 Aloysius
    March 10, 2007

    That’s so sad…I had Fred Skiff for a couple of undergraduate physics classes back in my U. of Iowa days. He was doing some interesting physics; some of my friends had jobs building him a gigantic plasma machine. Generally a harmless and inoffensive man. It’s such a shame he’s gone off the rails like this.

  27. #27 Chris Noble
    March 10, 2007

    Unfortunately, our supposed designer/programmer wasn’t kind enough to leave the manual for our ISA (machine code).

    Hell, a few comments would have been nice — unless that’s what all that “junk” DNA is

  28. #28 JohnnieCanuck
    March 11, 2007

    Well, based on all the patches and goto’s and unused code segments, I’d have to say these genomes are all spaghetti code. Insert FSM reference here. If there is a Designer, She is definitely a Meatball.

    Imagine if you were handed responsibility for a legacy project like this. Sure some things might look easy to fix, like that broken vitamin C segment, but the rest of it? What a nightmare.

    When you finally do get a few modules that compile and look like they are running in the simulator without problems, what then? They probably make you take any failures home and raise them yourself.

    Note how the hypothetical director of evolution makes a change to the code in one organism and then ships it. Let the customer deal. Worse even than Bill Gates.

    I actually did once get handed responsibility for the code on a project, just as it was winding down and the programmers had moved on. It was an imbedded Z80 (older even than PZ I am) microprocessor and I got burned when I added a single line of C without knowing to adjust the padding that put the stacks right up at FFFF. The feature I retested had its stack far enough down that it wasn’t bumped over the edge. grrr.

  29. #29 JohnnieCanuck
    March 11, 2007

    By ISA you can’t mean ‘Industry Standard Architecture’, I hope. That’s not a label for machine code. It’s the standard used in 16 bit PCs defining the pinout and timing for the Address, Data and Control signals between the mother board and the plugin cards. Opcodes would occasionally appear on the data bus as they were being fetched, but that’s about it.

    You aren’t by any chance a Systems Engineer, are you?

    This is a program in 808X machine code.

    C3FFFF

    It is about as useful as ID.

  30. #30 JohnnieCanuck
    March 11, 2007

    That’ll teach me. My intended code would be 18FF.

    Jump relative, -1

  31. #31 Owen Mackwood
    March 12, 2007

    You called it: I am in fact a Systems Engineer. I remember my first architecture course when they started talking about the ISA (here is what I was referring to). All I could think was “what does this have to do with an outdated computer bus standard?”

    The spaghetti code analogy is fantastic. A number of amusing parallels emerge from that.

  32. #32 SLC
    March 12, 2007

    This is off topic but it just came up on Myers’ blog. Prof Lynn Margulis just responded to a question about her views as to the relationship between HIV and AIDS, if any as posed by myself and several other commentators. Her response seems to put her in the Duesberg camp. A link is attached. Possibly Prof. Smith might want to comment on Prof. Margulis’ response.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/03/lynn_margulis_blog_tour.php#comments

  33. #33 Scott
    March 13, 2007

    Chris – she *did* leave the manual – after you get out of undergraduate software design, the source code is the documentation!

    Bob – my thoughts (of no particular note or value – I’m another dilettante) on the compatibility of Abrahamic religious tradition and methodological-naturalism-cum-logical-positivism: the only real conflict, such as it exists, is methodological, and it is entirely possible and within the scope of human spiritual understanding to take a methodologically compatible approach to any of the Abrahamic offshoots – there are plenty of folks who do (albeit relatively quietly) – they are generally known as ‘liberal theologians’. The Episcopal Bishop John Spong, who has a series of essays on the general subject of moving his church towards a non-theistic model of Christianity, is a living practitioner, but there are plenty of existentialist christians (Tillich leaps to mind) who have worked out Christian theologies that hold philosophical understandings of reality and truth that eliminate the Super-natural actors who descend like dues-ex-machina to intervene in the world. You’re quite right about these folks not being widely followed – but their thinking is represented by a plurality of active practitioners.

    The real conflict is this (cribbing from Hesse in Siddhartha and the Glass Bead Game, and Umberto Eco):

    First – Hesse: Religion has historically fulfilled the role for society of acting as the reservoir of collective knowlege; that information function incorporates a full understanding of our entire world – the natural and philosophical. Mythology is an extremely powerful and useful means of storing and retreiving certain types of information – well written short stories full of pathos can tell us far more about human nature than a pile of the American Journal of Psychology (and yes, I believe in psych, don’t get me wrong). And, as the religous leaders from the Egyptian priests to Al-demonstrated amply, it is possible for religious leaders to do some good science. However, most of the religious process is one of refinement by reduction and a search for a Grand Unified Theory, which brings us to…

    Second – Eco(Name of the Rose): the religious information model is top->down authority. The empiricist (natural methodological) is bottom up – they are diametrically opposed. They understand and pursue ‘truth’ (knowlege) as being very different things. The truth they find is different. Both seek the ‘GUT’, but one of them accepts that some questions can’t be answered (or that no-one has figured out how to test for them yet), and that most answers are in reality statitical approximations.

    In a very ironic twist – the ultimate “logical positivists” are the authority models – they truly believe a single, literal and universal truth can be hammered out or ‘seen’. The empiricists run around knowing the best we’ll ever manage is an asymtote – we know that it will converge to 0 if we extrapolate to infinity (or inverse infinity), but just like a half life, there is always some tiny fraction still there – the ideal only exists in our imagination.

    To use the scientific approach, you have to have a tolerance for a fair bit of uncertainty – you have to like a world wihtout difinitive answers and absolute authority – you have to be able to tolerate shades of grey. There are a lot of people who can’t handle that, or the perceived banality of an existence centered, mainly, around the goal of reproduction – why on earh do you think the creation myth and sex are the emotional ground zero for these folks?

    The real point of ID in attacking TOE, and the real threat of TOE, is that TOE, in addressing the creation myth more successfully than Genesis does and doing it with methodological naturalism, really cuts the sandy base out from under the promontory of authoritative truth – it represents extinction for a world view grounded in “because Mommy/Daddy said so” – it is no accident that the author of “Dare to Discipline” is the leader of the Religious Right in this country, nor that the party of Authoritarians is the same one that has aligned with the so-called RR.

    If you are open to reading the bible as an interpretive allegory, not ‘literal’ truth, then the conflict with ‘science’ vanishes. The trouble with that, for certain types of religious folks, is that their insistence that a particular interpretation (theirs) is the only and necessarily correct one, because they are authority and they said so, also vanishes.

    I personally came, after about 20 years, to the conclusion that Jesus was a fascinating rebellious teenager, who managed a very provocative and timely synthesis of a lot of ideas that had been bouncing around for a few hundred years. He was the right punk teen in the right place at the right time, and he got a little cult going. He had some fantatistic ideas about the way to re-interpret the collected knowlege of the Abrahamic tradition and infuse it with a helluva new gloss – and that most certainly did piss off the authoritative interpreters of his time, who were making a pretty penny running the money-changing operation (ever considered the tax free status of the televangelists?) under their own interpretation, and didn’t particularly care for someone upsetting that applecart. I do not need (indeed, I’m an atheist insofar as believing in a supernatural daddy in the clouds) Jesus to be literally resurrected to recognize the truth of a rebellious teenager.

    I can’t recommend Eco enough.

  34. #34 Scott
    March 13, 2007

    I also need to learn to:

    - write shorter sentences
    - spell
    - and proofread.

    My apologies :-)